MILAN – And then there was no one.
Serie A leader Napoli lost for the first time this season as Inter Milan revived their Italian title bid with a 3-2 victory on Sunday.
Inter, the defending champions, reduced the distance to Napoli and AC Milan to four points after 13 rounds and ended Napoli’s status as the last remaining undefeated team in Europe’s five major leagues.
Dries Mertens, who had set up a vibrant final with Napoli’s late second goal, missed the chance to equalize in overtime as he blasted his shot over.
It was Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti’s first return to the San Siro in Milan since being sacked by Inter despite leading to a fourth-place finish in 2019.
Spalletti’s players wore jerseys and paid tribute to the great footballer Diego Maradona, who died on November 25 last year, but it was another Argentine who scored the winning goal.
Lautaro Martínez scored Inter’s third goal on a counterattack in the 61st minute, set up by compatriot Joaquín Correa, who almost ran from one penalty area to another.
Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanović saved the result with a brilliant save to dismiss Mário Rui in overtime, forcing the ball on the crossbar before Mertens missed.
The visitors had first hit in the 17th, when Piotr Zielinski won the ball by Nicolo Barella, then recovered and ran forward to smash the ball from Lorenzo Insigne’s pass into the crossbar.
Hakan Çalhano • lu equalized with a penalty in the 25th, awarded after Kalidou Koulibaly was penalized through VAR for handball after blocking Barella’s shot with his left arm.
Inter coach Simone Inzaghi was booked for kicking the ball away after the whistle. Koulibaly received a yellow card after 80 minutes for unsportsmanlike behavior.
It provoked a furious reaction before the break when Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina dismissed Barella. Inter scored from the resulting corner in the 44th minute when Ospina was powerless to keep Ivan Perišić’s header out at the nearest post.
There was a long delay early in the second half after a bad head-to-head clash between Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and Inter’s Milan Skriniar. Osimhen was unable to continue and walked away with what appeared to be a cheekbone injury.
Martínez scored, but Mertens secured a lively final as he pulled one back in the 78th with an excellent shot into the crossbar. It was his 137th goal for Napoli.
There was another stop for another clash between Ospina and Inter striker Edin Džeko. Both continued with bandaged heads to watch the late drama.
Andriy Shevchenko made his debut as Genoa coach against José Mourinho’s Roma team later.
Earlier, a penalty kick from Brazilian striker João Pedro Cagliari helped leave the bottom of the table with a 2-2 draw against Sassuolo.
Sampdoria’s 2-0 win over Salernitana left the bottom of the promotion in Cagliari’s place.
Also, Nigerian striker David Okereke’s goal in the second half was enough for Venice to get away from Bologna with a surprising 1-0 victory.
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